Thursday something occurred that felt nearly miraculous.
My therapist expressed his opinion that I was doing so well that all I might need at this point would be the occasional session to check in and make sure everything was still okay.
It’s a little less than 2 years since I embarked on a journey to save myself. My depression and anxiety had become so bad between 2016 and 2018 I felt certain that unless I made serious effort to get my symptoms under control, I had a year or two before I was in a mental hospital or worse.
I started therapy believing I would be dealing with severe depression and anxiety for the rest of my life, but hoping I could learn how to manage the worst of the symptoms – without medication, if possible, with if absolutely necessary. I wanted to be able to be present for my children as they grew up.
I started making a habit of activities known to help ease symptoms of mental illness. Music, walking in nature, writing. I put my foot down and told my husband I needed to be able to sleep, and have a house that wasn’t full of clutter, or within a year I would not be able to live in the same place with him any longer. I’d found out from my therapist that sleep deprivation and clutter were huge contributors to depression and anxiety.
Life threw additional changes at me. News that my husband’s company would be closing his local office within 2 years so that he would need to find a new job or get transferred to an office in another state. He ended up getting a transfer to Indiana. By then tensions had become so strong between us that instead of separation, I’d begun to think in terms of divorce.
After meeting him for a joint session, my therapist became very concerned for me. She didn’t want me to move to Indiana with my husband, but I had come up with an ambitious plan – spend one last year with him in Indiana, working on my mental health and gaining employment so I could become independent. My therapist admitted it had taken her approximately 3 years to get back on her feet and be more or less independent after divorcing her husband. I wanted to give myself the chance for independence in a year.
I was still giving my husband the benefit of the doubt that he was misguided and myopic, not malicious. I told myself he wasn’t a bad person, he was just so fixated on living a specific way that it wasn’t likely to work. If we were going to stay together, both of us had to be able to feel some contentment and happiness, not just one of us.
After we moved to Indiana, things went from bad to worse. My husband wiped out our savings account, taking 11k and transferring it to an account in his own name that I didn’t have access to and switching his direct deposit to that account as well. He left me less than $1,000. He claimed he’d done it because we had a conversation where I asked him about having his name removed from the joint account – a conversation that had never occurred. I started to question his sanity.
The depression and anxiety were still severe, but I struggled to incorporate my goals into my life. I worked with the state employment office to get training in common office software and took an adult basic education course to raise my algebra skills. I worked on my social life, meeting my friends H and M in person for the first time, then meeting C and R, too. I found a D&D game to join.
Things continued to deteriorate between myself and my husband, and in late August of 2019, having realized there was no hope of him learning to respect my boundaries, I determined divorce was 100% happening, no more chances. Eventually I would be forced to acknowledge that it was quite likely my husband was acting with malice, and had been acting with malice for years in an effort to keep me in his control.
By January things were looking pretty dire. It became apparent he wasn’t going to cooperate with the original plan. Instead of divorcing in the summer, he was going to start a divorce right away, while I had approximately $200 in the bank and no employment yet. Sure enough, he filed for divorce on February 7th. He had an attorney. Through the kindness of a friend, I was able to retain an attorney myself.
I finally became employed at [private] in March of 2020, right before the pandemic lockdown started. We had mediation in April, and It failed, as I had expected. My attorneys said I needed to get out and take the kids with me, so he couldn’t claim abandonment.
The next 2 months were incredibly tense for me. I started to worry my ex would snap and that I’d become a statistic. In June, I moved out, helped by coworkers and fellow players from my D&D group, with M keeping an eye on the kids for me while it all went down. This forced my ex to agree to 50/50 custody for the summer.
The longer I was away from him, the more my mental (and physical) health improved. Between June and today, the severe symptoms of depression and anxiety faded away. Every now and then I had a bad day or a bad night, but I was well practiced in walking through those bad times and assessing what I needed to do, if anything.
Now, nearly 2 years after I first started therapy for severe depression & anxiety, my therapist has expressed his opinion that I’ve improved so much I don’t really need the assistance of therapy any longer.
I never, ever thought this would be possible. I never thought the river of sadness would dry up. I never thought I would be able to make decisions and not get lost in all the terrible things that could go wrong. I used to hope for a good day now and then. Now, when I have the occasional bad day, I have tools to rely on to help get me through.
2020 isn’t the year that restored me – it’s the year that did so much more than restore me. It’s the year of new growth that overflows and exceeds the boundaries, that cracks the walls and foundations and leaves in ruins the prison crafted for me in childhood.
I am so, so damn grateful for my growth.